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Crafting Decor Tutorial

DIY Decor: Easy Wood Plaques

June 15, 2016

Every now and then I just decide I need something. Last time it was a dream catcher for each bedroom; this time it’s a little wooden plaque to hang in my daughter’s room. Here’s the thing, I’m big on precision and I don’t like my handwriting! I can easily whip something up on my computer, but once I print it, how do I get it onto the wood? Want to know?

This simple transfer method can be used on any soft wood (pretty much any craft wood you can buy in a craft or hobby shop). You don’t need any real art skills per se, but it will be helpful for you to have a relatively steady hand.

diy decor old fashioned modern livingLet’s go back to the beginning. I love wood slices, and I’ve been seeing them again and again in Joann Fabric and wondering what I can do with them. I finally bought one, just a little ornament size, about 3″ in either direction, with a hole drilled so it can hang. After a few weeks, it struck me – I could use it to make an ornament for Little Miss’ bedroom!

I’ve always had a fondness for the line from William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “and though she be but little, she is fierce.” In the play, it’s a warning…one character tells another that the third will not hurt her, to which she responds, basically, she’s tough when she’s angry, and don’t underestimate her due to her size.

Being rather short of stature myself, I’ve always liked this quote. Being underestimated for your size is no fun. Plus, one of my favorite fiction series (The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, FYI) utilizes the quote in regard to a particularly tough female character. Now enter Little Miss – nearly two, a little big for her age but still quite small in the scheme of things, and sweet and smart and tough! Yes, she’s little, but she’s fierce!

So now, I have a wood slice and I have a quote. But as I mentioned, if I just freehand this, I’m 150% guaranteed to hate it. I don’t feel like doing a messy and labor intensive gel medium transfer…I just need to get what I print out of my computer onto the wood. Ready to see how I did it?

You’ll need:

  • A sharp pointed ballpoint pen (I’m a big fan of the Pentel RSVP fine point pen)
  • A fine point marker that will not bleed (I’ll argue that a Micron size 01 is best all day, every day)
  • Your wood slice
  • A ruler
  • Computer/printer/printer paper
  • Scotch tape

Get started!

  1. Measure the usable area on your wood slice, meaning account for edges, dark areas around the outside and any drilled holes. If there’s a string, remove it so it sits flat.
  2. Design your own, or print out an image you want to use in the appropriate size. I realize this is easy for me since I’m a graphic artist, but even MS Paint has text and re-sizing capabilities. You can also use a picture from a magazine, or simply draw your image on another sheet of practice paper and then transfer. Trim down your image to the right size and tape it where you want it.
  3. Take your fine point ballpoint pen and carefully trace your text or image, putting a little more pressure than usual. If your letters are thin, just do it once, however if there are thicker parts, like in my script words, outline the thick areas.
  4. Remove the tape and paper, and you should be able to see a fine inprint in the wood. Take your fine point marker and carefully trace, coloring in any thicker areas you want solid.
  5. Decorate in any way you wish, add color with colored pencils or fine point markers (test markers on the back to make sure they don’t bleed!) or leave it as is, then replace the string.

This same trick can be used on any size, from little ornaments like this to larger wall plaque size wood slices which you add a hanger to once you’re done. You can also buy craft wood shapes loose, or packs of thin rectangles to make into signs or other decor.

I think mine came pretty decent, with the exception of the s in “is” getting a little wonky, but I’ll just need to ignore that. It’s not super easy to write carefully with a toddler trying to climb on you. I haven’t decided yet if I want to draw some sort of decorative border or just leave it plain.

There are so many possibilities here! Think about the gifts you can make – imagine a set of wood coasters (sealed with a top coat, of course) with a cute hand drawn motif or a customized decorative plaque. I’m thinking there may be more of these around here in the future.

Decor Health & Home

Sweet little succulents

March 28, 2016

succulents old fashioned modern livingI’ve found a new favorite plant, and I feel so trendy admitting this. Succulents are just so cute!

I’ve been aware of them for a while, and always felt a fondness for these chunky little plants. As it happens, my favorite flowers are the bulb flowers of early spring, the thick blooms of hyacinths and tulips and the sturdy growth of bright daffodils.

I recently looked around my home and realized that I was sorely lacking in living decor – yes, plants. I had a houseplant on my windowsill, looking a little worse for wear, and a large peace lily that has not been doing so well. It’s a bummer! It’s not like I have a black thumb. I’ve planted a reasonable successful garden for many years, and used to maintain a silly collection of bamboo arrangements in all shapes and sizes.

I like the energy of having living plants in the house, and it’s widely accepted that the presence of houseplants can improve air quality, and who wouldn’t like that? Unfortunately my only really sunny spots are the narrow windowsill of my kitchen window and the bay window in my living room, so I needed to be space conscious. So when some colorful little succulents came up on my Instagram feed, I decided to look into them. A quick search revealed that succulents are wildly popular right now!

Succulents are plants with thick, fleshy leaves and stems which retain water, allowing them to live in dry climates. Aloe plants are succulents, and cacti are sometimes classified as succulent plants as well. About 60 different plant families are considered succulents, so there is a wide variety in what is available.

I ordered a few small assorted pots of soft succulents from Mountain Crest Gardens to play with, and I chose a few specific ones from the Home Depot Garden Center. I noted to my husband that succulents are the toddlers of the plant world – they’re little, cute, and chunky.

So why are succulent plants awesome?

  1. They start small and can live in small, tidy containers.
  2. They come in a variety of interesting shapes and pretty colors, with soft succulents suited for indoors and hardy succulents suited for outside planting.
  3. Multiple varieties can be planted together to make lovely arrangements.
  4. They’re inexpensive to start.
  5. With a little care and patience, you can easily grow new succulents from cuttings or leaves of your favorite plants.
  6. There are a ton of resources available on the internet about succulent planting, care and propagation.
  7. I get to say the word “propagation” on a regular basis.

succulents old fashioned modern livingI decided to do something different for Easter this year. The women in my family tend to gift each other Easter flowers, sometimes a live plant, sometimes a bouquet of cut flowers or even a faux flower. I took 2″ terra cotta flower pots that I purchased very inexpensively and brushed some craft paint around the rim, then added a little bow of twine and planted a petite succulent from my assortment in each in a little cactus soil from Home Depot (you can mix clean sand and quick draining soil, but if you don’t need too much, buying the cactus soil is plenty cost effective). Care is simple, “indoors, plenty of sun, just a little water when the soil is dry.”

Sure, caring for them long term is a little more complex, and you need to periodically re-pot your succulents if you want them to continue growing, but that’s a good start. I’m not going to go into in-depth care, as a quick Google search will turn up all the details you need from people who know much more than I do on the subject.

If you do go to order succulents online, be sure to read the details. Are these potted plants or just cuttings? Are they available year-round? Can you expect your little plants to survive shipping in extreme hot or cold? How often does the company ship? Remember that you’re ordering living things, and certain considerations may apply.

Personally, I’m hooked. I have a lovely little arrangement for my front window in a shiny turquoise ceramic pot, a tiny plant in a tiny pot in my kitchen window, a hanging terrarium ornament I still need to fill, and a little purplish plant that is slated to go into the Bulbasaur planter I ordered for my husband from an Etsy shop. Then in a few weeks, I’ll order some hardy succulents and create an outdoor arrangement.

Do you have succulents? What are your favorite indoor plants?

Decor Health & Home Life

Cracked Popcorn Ceilings and Plaster Walls #veryoldhouseproblems

March 22, 2016

We are elbow deep in all things baby prep right now- and that includes getting baby boy’s room set up! He’ll be in our bedroom in his co-sleeper for a few months, but we don’t want to be worrying about renovating a room and making a mess with a newborn in the house, so our goal is to have everything completed soon. With about 9 weeks to go, I know that we do have time to get it done- but everything does feel urgent. We have furniture from various rooms all in the living room right now as we shuffle things around to see what new arrangements make sense now that we are eliminating the office (that will be baby’s room). We are also eager to put away all of the adorable baby gifts that we received at our showers, and hang up the art that we have been collecting for a few months now. I received a beautiful print from a friend, and the things that I have bought myself have all been on Etsy! For example this, and this. If you have never shopped on Etsy- please do! It is a fantastic company to support- you will find  nearly anything you can think of- and they treat their employees like gold.  I am super impressed that they have recently extended their Parental Leave Policy so that new parents are eligible for 26 weeks paid leave for up to two years after the birth or adoption of a child! It’s just cool to see a company that is so motivated to keep parents in the workforce without sacrificing family life.

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We have been hard at work for the past few weeks, first with clearing out the office and repairing some of the damaged surfaces.  Plaster walls, man. Its a messy, crumbly business. Although we do appreciate some of the charming, original characteristics in our home, plaster walls and ceilings that have not been properly cared for are a pain. When we first moved in, we tore out most of the plaster in our bedroom, but it ended up being much harder work than we anticipated, and it was months before the room was sheetrocked and ready to be lived in. Since that experience, we have worked on repairing the existing walls and ceilings in the other rooms. In this particular room, my husband took down all of the wallpaper border, while I patched cracks and holes in the plaster walls. There is something satisfying about doing home repairs yourself. I was pretty confident about the spackling because I did some in our living room over the summer. We had been taking down some crooked molding, when we discovered that it was not tacked in, but glued on- and we  accidentally took down part of the wall with it! It was up to me to spackle and sand the damaged walls and I am happy to say that you can no longer tell a piece of the wall was ever missing in that spot.

In the nursery,  my husband then sanded the walls, and together, we used joint compound and a sea sponge to cover the cosmetic cracks in the ceiling and recreate that bumpy look. I’m only allowed on the ladder when someone is standing right there. Its frustrating when you are used to being able to do things yourself, but I don’t want to put th the baby at risk, so it makes sense.  In this particular room, we were very lucky, the cracks were all minor. In the guest room that we repaired a few years ago, parts of the ceiling were actually falling down! We had to insert giant screws in several places just to make it safe before we could plaster over it. In the baby’s room, we were able to cover all cracks with one coat. Unfortunately the ceiling is old and has clearly been repaired more than once over the years, so there are certain areas where, due to the difference in elevation, it looks like it is still cracked despite the repairs. I am confident that a fresh coat or two of white paint will camouflage most of these flaws though!

That’s what we are up to now- the painting part. The tan will be an accent wall, and the white is going on the other walls. It’s a small room, so I did not want all of the walls to be dark. The other colors are being considered for the peg board diaper holder that we are building next! If you haven’t seen one before, check this out!

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I wish I could help more, but I can’t be breathing in those fumes, so my husband has been priming on his own and will begin actually painting today. I’ve done the taping and tarping of the room, a process that always makes me feel a little bit like Dexter (if you’ve ever seen that show), and I’ve been finding other ways to help out where I can! The goal is to spend our Friday off together assembling furniture and getting our house somewhat back to normal. We are hoping to get so much done that we can spend Easter lounging around after church. How is this Sunday Easter already? And what am I going to make for brunch?

Happy Tuesday Friends!

Decor Health & Home Tutorial

DIY Decor: Dreamcatchers

March 21, 2016
diy dreamcatcher old fashioned modern living

diy dreamcatcher old fashioned modern livingSince I was a child, I’ve always been fascinated by dreamcatchers. If you’re unfamiliar, dreamcatchers are intricately woven hoops, originally made by Native Americans, which are thought to capture bad dreams in the woven web while allowing good dreams through the open center. Dreamcatchers are also important symbols within many Native American cultures, and if you’re interested, I would encourage you to look into it, as the origin and legends surrounding them are quite interesting. If you know me personally, you know I’m a sucker for historical details, myths and legends, but aside from that, I do feel like it is important to understand the origin of symbols we utilize.

The dreamcatcher design has become somewhat ubiquitous, appearing on garments and popping up at craft fairs. Dreamcatcher was the title of a Stephen King novel, and in recent episodes of season 5 of Once Upon a Time, a dreamcatcher was used as a magic charm to store memories.

I was introduced to dreamcatchers when I was 7 or 8 years old. My mother, brothers and I would spend summers upstate and we began attending a local library class where we would read a story and then do a craft to accompany it. Sometimes it was something basic like building a plaque from popsicle sticks, sometimes much more complex, like the time a local artist co-hosted and we created mosaic flower pots. I don’t recall the story we read this particular day, but I remember making my first dreamcatcher. Imagine, if you will, a white paper plate with the center cut out and holes punched around the edges. Yarn was woven through the holes with plastic pony bead accents, and then we added bright primary colored craft feathers to the bottom. It was crude, sure, but it got me hooked. That first dreamcatcher may well still be in my parents’ summer home somewhere, along with many of our childhood craft projects.

diy dreamcatcher old fashioned modern livingFast forward. While I was pregnant with my daughter (before we knew she was a she), we decided to do the nursery green, and I decided to make a dreamcatcher for the window. I started with a 9″ wood hoop which I wrapped with white suede cord, then I used white crochet cotton and an assortment of gemstone beads I had on hand to create the web. Then we moved and the dreamcatcher sat unfinished for over a year. I recently finished it, and decided to make another for my own room, and a third with a doily just to try it out. The doily is a much less traditional design, but I think it’s very quaint and attractive. I added some quartz crystals to all of my dreamcatchers, as quartz is a great protective stone and I love it.

I apologize for the quality of some of these photos, I don’t know what was wrong with my camera! This is a quick project, however I finished these two over the course of a weekend, as I had an extremely curious toddler trying to help.

Onto your DIY Decor – here’s what you’ll need. If you have materials that will work, go ahead! I had nearly everything on hand before I started. There are so many ways you can customize, please understand this is only an outline. This is one of those projects that once you see how to do it, you’ll be off running and can personalize to your heart’s content.

Materials:

  • 2-piece wood embroidery hoop, your choice of size (the small ones I used are 6″, the larger 9″)
  • Crochet cotton, embroidery floss, thin yarn or twine
  • Doily (if using)
  • Beads or feathers for embellishments, if desired
  • Strips of fabric, yarn, suede cord, ribbon
  • Paper clamp
  • Quick drying glue (anything that will adhere, I used Hypo-Cement)

Doily style hoop assembly:

diy dreamcatcher old fashioned modern livingThis style is a more modern bohemian style, so you retain the silhouette of the piece but lose the woven aspect. It’s still lovely to look at. For this project I used a 6″ wood hoop with a 1″ strip of white muslin, white crochet cotton and a white doily from the craft store.

  1. Start with your wood hoop, a doily at least a little smaller, and your crochet cotton/embroidery floss/twine. Take apart the embroidery hoop and set aside the split part, you’ll be using the solid here. If you are not covering the ring, move on to the next step. If you are covering the ring, take the ribbon or 1″ strip of fabric you’ll be using and choose a starting point. Put a dab of glue on the inside of the hoop and stick your fabric there, clamping it in place with the paper clamp. Begin winding your fabric, giving enough overlap that it covers evenly. Feel free to move the clamp as you go if it makes you feel more secure. When you get back to the start, overlap slightly, trim your fabric and glue it down, using the clamp to hold it until it dries.
  2. Cut yourself a piece of your string about 3x as long as your hoop so you have plenty of space (6″ hoop = 18″ string), and tie it on in any spot, relatively snugly with a secure double knot. Place your doily in the center and begin weaving through the outer point, around the hoop and through the next outer point. Some doily designs may have 1 central spot on each outer bump, mine had 2. Continue all the way around, keeping a relatively even tension (a smaller doily will leave more open space around the outside, mine stretched slightly to fit just so) and when you get to the end, just tie off with a double knot and trim the edges.

Woven style hoop assembly:

For this one I used some red suede cord I had on hand for the hoop, and pale yellow crochet cotton for the web. Any thin cord will work for the web, and there are plenty of similar materials you can use to wrap the hoop if you prefer.

  1. Start with your wood hoop and suede cord. Remove the outer split portion of the embroidery hoop. Dab some glue on the inside of the hoop and press the end of your cord into it, using the paper clamp to hold it. Begin winding, being careful to keep the cord from twisting and keeping it fairly even all the way around so you don’t end up with gaps. Feel free to glue every here and there, and move the clamp to hold it in place as you go. When you reach the starting point again, trim your cord so it will meet the other end, dab in some glue, press and clamp until it has set.
  2. Get yourself plenty of your web material (crochet cotton, twine, yarn, embroidery floss, etc). Choose a spot to start and tie on with a snug double knot; feel free to use the ridges between the cord to nestle it in. Visually determine 6-8 anchor points (I like to note the 4 basic points, then put one between as well for a total of 8). Bring your string to your next anchor point, go around and back through the space your string and hoop made – if you do not double back the string will not anchor (look at the photos to see what I mean). Continue around until you have your first round, then continue the pattern onto the string instead of the hoop this time, going to the center of the section, around and through. Continue until your web covers as much as you wish and tie off with a double knot, then trim. If you want beads in your web, just slip them onto the cord and let them fall in as you weave.

Adding decorations:

You can get creative here. I use mostly slipknot type knots to attach my dangling pieces; I used mostly yarn here, but you can use strips of fabric, ribbon, trim, suede cord, or whatever else you like. Try different textures, braid some pieces, and try different lengths. I added some crystals in as well, and tapered the hanging pieces towards the center. Add drilled seashells or  coins, strands of beads, or whatever strikes your fancy. I added some lovely feathers I had ordered on Etsy from a family farm that responsibly and humanely harvests feathers from their chickens (and cleans them!) to two of the three dreamcatchers, stripping the top fluffy bits to reveal some stem, then hot gluing them together and attaching them by simply using a piece of string and a series of knots – wrap to front and tie, wrap to back and tie, etc etc until the entire stem was covered and the feather cluster securely attached. Get creative!

I added some pieces and then removed them if I wasn’t happy with how it looked – that’s the beauty of the slipknot. If you’re braiding, just use something to hold the hoop in place (I used my phone, which you’ll see in the photos).

Then just add a loop of string to hang and you’re ready to go!

The white dreamcatcher is in Little Miss’ room, while the red and yellow is a subtle but attractive addition to the red and gold curtains on my double window. The doily one will likely be heading north to Kristen. I love these! The design is just so elegant and lovely, and I like the thought of them keeping away nasty dreams and only letting the sweet ones through, especially for my little girl.

Will you be trying this? What are you crafting?